Ask Amy: Manipulative mother tests notion of normalcy

2014-07-14T00:00:00Z Ask Amy: Manipulative mother tests notion of normalcyBy Amy Dickinson Tribune Content Agency Arizona Daily Star

DEAR AMY: My mother is very manipulative and controlling.

Her moods swing at the drop of a hat and she can be very cruel (i.e. making fun of my 10-year-old niece when she started crying for her parents), to the point that none of her grandchildren want to be with her.

I’m a single mom. She is constantly criticizing me and my parenting, to the point where I feel uncomfortable around her and awful about myself.

Today, we were discussing something via email and she sent back an email stating that she does not feel appreciated by me or my sisters and wants to end her life, but won’t do so because of how it would make my grandmother (her mother) feel.

I don’t know how to respond to this and wonder if I should just separate myself from her for good. Before you suggest it, she is in therapy. But we feel the therapist is just taking her money.

I want a normal relationship with a normal mother. Please help. — Tired Daughter

DEAR TIRED: The “normal” mother-daughter relationship you imagine is rarer than you realize. And, unfortunately, you will simply never have it.

Here’s what you do have: a maddening, demanding, manipulative, critical parent who will really stop at nothing to emotionally control you.

Here’s her message to you: “My daughters don’t appreciate me and so I’m going to kill myself — except I’m not going to kill myself because I’m such a good daughter.”

You should respond honestly: “This is a frightening statement for you to make. I’m worried about you and hope your therapy is helping you.”

You must build boundaries around your life. You might choose to sever the relationship, but don’t be surprised if she beats you to the punch and cuts you off.

Unfortunately, sometimes toxic people are so resistant to change that therapy does not really help them — but they send everybody else into therapy to find ways to cope. I highly recommend it for you.

DEAR AMY: I am in my mid-20s and feel like I have outgrown my group of girlfriends.

I noticed this most recently when I included these girls in my bridal party. Noticing the immature (and often rude) things they continue to do — and fights they continue to engage in — was a wake-up call for me.

I’ve always been a people pleaser. Although I know I should be making new and more “mature” friends (or people with similar interests), I can’t help but continue to accept invitations to go on group trips, etc. with them.

I have known these girls for years; I just don’t want them as my main group of friends anymore.

I have no idea how to distance myself from these girls without looking like a complete jerk. — Trying to Grow

DEAR TRYING: You describe yourself as a “people pleaser.” One central concept of maturing into adulthood is to figure out how to please yourself. This does not translate into selfishness but in learning how to be stalwart and emotionally balanced.

If you don’t figure this out now, then you might find yourself repeating this friendship pattern in other ways — being pushed around by colleagues, your in-laws, your husband and your kids.

Your friends might stay stuck in adolescence. You should gently start to assert your independence by not accepting the next invitation to hang with people you’ve outgrown. Back away slowly. You need to have the strength to tell the truth: “I’ve changed. I’m not into this stuff anymore.”

They may confront you, gossip and try to emotionally manipulate you.

And then it might dawn on you that their opinion of you is of no consequence.

DEAR AMY: I’m responding to “Upset,” whose co-worker reserved a high-top table at a restaurant she couldn’t reach in her wheelchair.

To me, that shows that the co-worker doesn’t think of Upset as being in a wheelchair, she just thinks of her as a friend. Maybe she wasn’t thoughtless at all, but rather a person who sees beyond people’s disabilities. — Benefit of the Doubt

DEAR BENEFIT: Other readers have suggested this, and this perspective is putting a nice spin on the awkwardness.

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribune.com

Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or “like” her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson’s memoir, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them” (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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